York, PA - They know the sight well. The slumped shoulders. The flustered looks of another pitcher whose arsenal has been exhausted.
This is what West York's hitters have done to opposing hurlers so many times this season -- wear them down, physically and mentally. The physical part is easy to pinpoint: West York has compiled a .350 team batting average heading into Friday's 6 p.m. PIAA Class AAA baseball championship game against District 3 foe Lampeter-Strasburg at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The Bulldogs are averaging 7.7 runs per game.
But West York also has churned through pitchers using another tool: Its patience. Eight of West York's nine starters have drawn a double-digit number of walks this season. Those same eight all have on-base percentages greater than .450.
"You can definitely see it," West York shortstop Brock Gladfelter said of the frustration his team's discipline breeds in opposing pitchers. "When they get the ball and they just walk to the mound with their head down. They're like 'What do I throw him?' "
The philosophy preached by West York coach Roger Czerwinski has been simple: Lay off the off-speed pitches early in counts. Wait for fastballs that leak over the plate.
Czerwinski said he and his staff also have stressed hitting the ball to the opposite field this season.
"That's probably the thing I'm most proud of," the coach said, "is our ability to hit the ball to all fields."
The end result has been a lineup that, one-through-nine, has consistently peppered opposing pitchers. Even Gladfelter, the team's No. 9 hitter, is batting .379 with a .488 on-base percentage.
In three state playoff games, the Bulldogs have averaged eight runs. None of their opponents' starters in those games have lasted more than three innings. On the season, West York's hitters have walked more times (119) than they have struck out (110).
None of which is to say Friday's game will follow a similar pattern. Lampeter-Strasburg has allowed a combined five runs in three state playoff games and boasts two top starters -- left-hander Peter Darrenkamp and righty Ray Lopez. Darrenkamp took a no-hitter into the final inning of the Pioneers' 2-1 semifinal win against Neumann-Goretti.
Still, if West York's lineup holds true to form, whoever starts against them will have to work for each out.
"You have one-through-nine where it doesn't matter where they put us, we get the job done," Gladfelter said
Will Hepler start?: Offense aside, perhaps the greatest propellant behind West York's postseason run has been pitching -- and specifically the work of senior right-hander Kaden Hepler. The Winthrop commit has started all three state playoff games for the Bulldogs, and would seem to be a smart bet to get the ball Friday evening.
Still, Czerwinski said whether Hepler starts -- or how long he pitches -- will be determined solely by how his well his arm recovers.
"Kaden knows going into it, if his arm is sore at all, or there's any hint of problems or concern, that he will not get the ball," Czerwinski said. "If he's healthy, he's going to get the ball. If not, we're going to go to (junior left-hander Brandon Kinneman)."
Hepler threw 87 pitches during five shutout innings of the Bulldogs' 8-1, semifinal win against Blackhawk on Monday. In 831/3 innings this season, he has produced a 0.50 ERA and 123 strikeouts.
Kinneman has been a solid No. 2 for the Bulldogs, going 5-3 with a 2.05 ERA in 511/3 innings.
Revenge on the mind: Friday will be the second time this scholastic season West York and Lampeter-Strasburg have met in a high-profile game -- albeit in different sports.
Last fall, the Bulldogs football team was eliminated by Lampeter-Strasburg, 24-13, in the District 3 Class AAA semifinals. Several members of both baseball teams also played in that game.
The sports are different this time, but at least one West York player said he'd be looking for revenge.
"After that loss, it was heartbreaking," Gladfelter said. "Now that we're playing them for a state title, we're not going to let anything bad happen. We're going to do whatever it takes to get the 'W.' It hurt us, but we're coming back for revenge."